Chapter 40: Salvation

Naruto jumped from treetop to treetop as he entered the forest of death. It had been a while since he set foot in the forest, memories of Orochimaru assaulting their team came to mind. It was probably here that things had taken a turn for the worse ever since the wave mission.

Zabuza and Haku might have opened his eyes to the cruelty of the shinobi world, but Orochimaru opened his eyes about monstrous people who had no qualms about doing taboos that would further their agendas.

Under the influence of Sage mode, Naruto stalked the forest around him, making his way to the chakra signatures that he was familiar with.

His being was saturated with thick levels of natural energy and the world around him seemed to comply. The air seemed to distort, blades of grass would lean back towards him as they fed on his chakra, seemingly filled to the brim with life giving yang energy and every step he took made the earth grow small shrubs as it began to form new foliage.

Vicious predators that have grown a taste for human flesh remained hidden, afraid and unwilling to come out as they felt the presence of an apex predator in their midst. Throughout all of this, Asura watched his transcendent intently.

'He's ready to take Senjutsu to the next level.'

Kurama seemed unconvinced, "With a crutch like that?"

Asura shook his head, 'It would have been much easier if you cooperated, Kurama.'

Kurama ignored his brother's chastisement of him not allowing the toads to sync with Naruto's chakra deeming not wanting them to mess with his own. Kurama's chakra was his, no one else's. To see an invasion of chakra that was trying to meld with his own felt like an invasion of his being.

"Rikudo Senjutsu is the only known method to produce rikudo chakra for somebody with no aptitude for it. Many have attempted, none have succeeded. What those who attempted compared to you lacked was that they did not have the old man."

And true enough, even with his transmigrants, almost all of them did not have the ability to enter such a state because they wouldn't reach far enough, potentials wasted by lack of time or being called to actions sooner than expected that they were snuffed out before they could flourish. The art was lost as the followers of Ninshu continued to diminish.

'And Rikudo chakra is required to fully manifest the powers of the Rinnegan.'

His thoughts drifted back to the time that a pair of Rinnegan eyes down on them in that cave. How could someone who carried his father's eyes be the one who would push their world into total destruction?

It didn't make sense to Asura. Someone who had the Rinnegan surely would have connections beyond the material plane, perhaps could connect with his father. But to see those eyes present in an ominous and dangerous man…

"Rikudo chakra can only be obtained by combining all the chakras of the tailed beasts and becoming a sage that surpasses all sages. It is the essence of all Rikudo Techniques. Without Rikudo Chakra, Rikudo Chikara is limited. And without Rikudo Chikara, Rikudo Chakra cannot be produced. But the old man found a way with you. You did not have Indra's talent or his eyes. But you inherited the old man's spirit. This power that was supposed to be passed down, supposed to be taught for generations into the future, vanished with you thus ninshu disappeared along with its successor."

'My failure to stop my brother and change his ways led to the failure of ninshu as a whole.' Asura looked down and his fists clenched at the realization of his failure.

'But if we must face the dawn with courage then the teachings of ninshu must be passed down. That includes your cooperation, Kurama. Naruto must learn the last lesson that father has given me, he must learn Rikudo Senjutsu.'

Kurama gave a huff and turned away, "Then he must face me first before he becomes what you envision him. Though I dread the coming days that we are set to confront, Naruto has yet to face true hatred."

'Your stubbornness will cost us, Kurama.'

Kurama did not care, "Indra has showed me that human avarice and malice grow stronger beyond even what I could reach. Their potential is always squandered, Asura. Even yours. Your line could not flourish to stop Indra's line and created this endless cycle of death and destruction."

'Even if that potential right now is flourishing and has a chance to actually change the world?'

Kurama looked at Asura surprised, the nine-tailed fox stared down at Asura, this did not sound like hope, but rather, desperation.

Kurama leaned down, "Asura. The Rikudo Sennin loved the world and its people just as much as you did, just as much as his brother did. But the world chose to burn it all, chose to rule with greed and hatred. It threw away father's teachings, spat on his legacy and forsook the one who could have changed the world eons ago. They have even twisted his lessons and used chakra as a tool of war. Perhaps it is better that the world be born anew."

Asura shook his head, 'That goes against our father's teachings, Kurama. 'Let not what appears on the surface be the summation of the whole.' Though we see them fail time and again, there are people out there that can bring about that change. Realism is not cynicism, Kurama. Doing nothing means we perpetuate that which hurts us. The powerless cannot fight back, but the powerful will step on them. Neither strength alone…'

"… Nor will alone, can bring about the necessary change. Did you perhaps learn that from the old man?"

Asura shook his head, "No, Kurama, this is what I learned on my own."

As Naruto had made his way towards the central tower where the familiar signatures were currently at, Naruto slowed down, sage mode finally running out.

Within his sights, he had found the group he was looking for.

"Nice of you to drop by, Naruto, I take it you're not here for idle talk, but business?"

Konoha Hospital:

Hinata approached at front, she was the one who will lead the charge against Sai. The wind had answered her call, Byakko resonated with her chakra and Byakko's element recognized her as the master and its herald.

Shikamaru followed suit, sword drawn as Chouji approached with his staff. Shino followed suit and deployed the insects in his person swarming around him on both harms.

The winds howled before silence escaped them when Hinata invoked the name of her jutsu.

"Byakko no Takashio (Storm Surge of the White Tiger)"

With those words, the quartet had split into different sides as Hinata's form vanished into a blur and reappearing to one of the ink lion's side and let loose a vicious palm strike at her first victim, splattering the ink lion as it was hit upwards in a diagonal blow as it was sent up to air. Hinata vanished once more and this time appeared above one of the remaining three lions and stabbed it with her index and middle fingers downwards on its back, creating a surge of wind from her arm and piercing the ground along with it, splattering the ink outwards once more as Hinata landed. It was here that Sai had made his approach, arms dangling at his sides with a sword of ink in between his lips.

Sai swung his head sideways and spun when Hinata had managed to slip around his first strike. Sai had used his considerable range to keep the Hyuuga at bay as he slid forward, flinching as he did so, seeing the multiple holes around his legs and thighs. Hinata jumped back and the two remaining ink lions lunged at her on opposite directions. Hinata ducked and huddled just in time and spun once more with her footwork, hitting the ink beast on the underbelly with two palm strikes before it dispelled and stopped her spinning momentum with her right foot before she spun in the opposing the direction as Hinata hit the ink lion that was about tear her legs off with another palm strike, this time, square in the middle of the ink lion's face destroying it with her palm splattering ink to the streets.

If her opponents were human, it would have been a gruesome sight to see. Hinata's brand of ruthlessness paired with her unique jyuuken fighting style would have led to a violent death if it were anything else. Perhaps her anger had shown, Sai was after all, responsible for Ino's situation, the one who had almost killed her beloved sister. Hinata found that wanting.

Sai then turned around once more, Hinata seeing her attacker come back for her, turned around as well, her hair flowing with her motions as Sai lunged with his ink blade drawn. Hinata reacted quickly, seeing the attack with her Byakugan from so far away as she spun to the side just in time putting her in direct position to Sai's opening.

When Hinata elegantly evaded Sai's attack, it was here that she gathered her momentum, her open right palm roared to live with chakra as she braced her rear leg for her strike. A lion's head manifested, made of chakra, as she leaned forward and directed her palm strike direct at Sai's back.

"Shishishougeki (Lion Palm Strike)!"

Sai, enhanced with the power of the arayashiki seal, turned around, his reflexes going beyond than what he could do at base form. Sai tilted his head slightly, forming low diagonal position of his blade. The blade then changed shape into that of a mace as the angry chakra lion met with a club made of ink that was reinforced far better than any metal it could think off.

The force was instantaneous.


A shockwave escaped between the two of them as Sai's mace shattered upon a powerful shockwave. Trees swayed away from the center of the clash, windows shattered upon impact and the nearest walls around them shuddered with some of the metal scaffolding groaning from the immense pressure, the force was strong enough that the contained area of their fight became concentrated sending both Hinata and Sai away from each other by the force of the blow.

Above the roof, Shikamaru stared up at the gigantic ink dragon that floated above him. It coiled upwards before it turned to Shikamaru to lung at the young strategist. Shikamaru evaded in time just as the dragon crashed to the rooftop below him destroying part of the building as it rose up and curved into the sky in an arc before it lunged again, this time, taking its opportunity to strike at Shikamaru while he was still in midair.

Shikamaru quickly looked at his surroundings, eyes darting back and forth until he noticed his shadow appearing just as he was about to land. With a hand seal, his shadow materialized from below and raced upwards as countless shadow tendrils shot upwards and spiraled into his free right like cling wrap, Shikamaru saw his right hand be covered with his shadow and shot it our of his right hand as it zipped through the air and managed to grab on to a concrete pole, pulling himself away from the Dragon's attack just in time.

"Kage Tsume no Jutsu (Shadow Claw Technique)"

Shikamaru felt it was a close call. He adjusted himself and flipped in midair as he landed. He noticed the dragon arching in midair once more before it turned to him and lunged yet again. This time, the dragon knew for sure of its mark. Shikamaru would not get away.

That was, until Shikamaru decided to dispel his current jutsu and with finesse that he learned with Ino, flipped in mid air and landed on a rooftop and slid back. Shikamaru turned his head for a second and saw a water tank behind him. Seeing the dragon diving towards him, Shikamaru grabbed three smoke bombs from his pouch and dropped them around him. Smoke covered his form as the dragon effectively rushed towards the smokescreen.

And subsequently crashed into the water tanker behind it flooding an entire street with water as confused and panicking citizens were being escorted out of the way by Shino and Chouji.

It was here that a giant spider began to rush at them and Shino quickly deployed his insect and formed several walls to hold the spider back just as Chouji shooed away the bystanders. Chouji then deflected a strike coming from above with his staff and twirled it above his head before stamping one of its end to his side as he asked the more seasoned chuunin in between them.

"Plan of attack?"

Shino nodded as he approached the giant spider.

"Let us assume that this interloper knows of our clan jutsu, knows of our tactics, I suggest we approach this differently"

Chouji nodded at this, "I have to agree. I'll hold those birds of prey back, don't let that spider get to our position."

Shino nodded as he walked towards the giant spider, right hand drawn, chakra gathered around his arm and enveloped itself around said arm as it glowed an incandescent blue. Wisps of chakra scattered, blowing ever which way. Then, veins started bulging out of his arm, engorged and hyperactive as they received blood more than usual. The gigantic black spider weaved and molded black silk that it used to shoot at Shino who merely swiped away with his right arm sideways, scattering the silk all around him.

"Konchu no Gitai: Kamakiri (Insect Mimicry: Mantis)"

Another string of webbing was fired, but cut down all the same. As Shino gained more land to close the gap, the spider took one more step back but Shino would prevail as he took each step with precise movement of his arm. This movement of Taijutsu to him came about as inspiration of taking cues from his teammates.

Shino was never really much of a brawler, taijutsu was never his strong point. That was Kiba's and Hinata's forte. He relegated himself to be as the one to do the support role of his squad. Whereas Kiba could strike swiftly overwhelm foes in multiple directions with Akamaru by his side, Hinata would be the one to deal finishing and deadly strikes in one blow and get in between Kiba's line of attacks and walk away from them unscathed with the aid of her Byakugan. Shino, however, preferred to do things in a much more controlled environment, where he sees the bigger picture and then build a strategy upon observing the opponent. In comparison, his preferred way of dealing with combat was much like Shikamaru's but his arsenal was perhaps more flexible and less tricky compared to the premier strategist of their generation.

Swarms of insects then began escaping from Shino's left sleeve, these creatures made a dark cloud like appearance as they encircled around Shino. The black spider screeched as the boy entered its striking range with his swarm of kikaichu swirling around him like a vicious whirlwind. The sound of multiple scratching could be heard and Shino's surroundings suddenly let go of an arching current.

They say the more friends interact with one another, the more alike they become. They pick up new mannerisms, new behaviors, and new insight from one another. Perhaps he shouldn't be surprised. Shino preferred to observe, retain helpful data and discard the rest. And upon that information, Shino gained more than he could ever hope to lose.

All because he chose to be with others. But this assassin had poisoned the garden. It had struck too close to home. His friends were harmed by this man's actions.

Underneath the stoic and often mistaken apathetic demeanor of Shino, the boy inside him raged like no other. Seeing Kiba hurt and Hinata distressed was enough for Shino to act.

The mad sound of thousands of insects scratching their legs could be heard and static electricity began to form. It was a low hum at first but when the giant ink spider used one of its forelegs to attack Shino and strike it down, only to have its power repelled by the static charge.

"Konchu no Gitai: Denkimushi (Insect Mimicry: Electric Insect)"

The ink spider recoiled, its form pushed back slightly, exposing its unprotected underbelly.

It was here that Shino struck.

Shino leaned down and dashed, the ink spider managed to recover but not quick enough as Shino, using the wet ground, slid below said creature and performed a handstand a contorted his body sideways before he jumped and kicked the spider with his left foot.

"Konchu no Gitai: Mukade (Insect Mimicry: Centipede)"

This sent the spider flying upwards followed by another kick sending it further up.

A streak of green, red and yellow then appeared as Shino continued to kick the spider with his heavy blows infused with his chakra.

"I've got your back, Shino!" Fuu yelled through the skies, her being wrapped in miasmic chakra and her forehead suddenly grew a blue horn with its tip splitting in the middle forming a y-shaped tip of her horn.

"Tsunoyari (Horn Spear)!" Fuu streaked through the sky, glowing as she did so, her miasmic chakra showing off an almost eerie glow, a menacing object from beyond the heavens.

Fuu then pierces the ink spider like it was made of paper. Fuu bursts from the other side, going through the made up creature as ink splattered above the skies of Konoha that it rained black in one part of the district. Fuu turned around, and immediately dispelled her chakra cloak as she caught Shino in her arms as he descended. A smile plastered on her face as she did so.

"Gotcha! Trust 'Shino's girlfriend' to always catch her man!"

Shino would have refuted but he felt that this wasn't the time to do so, his vision turned back towards the ground to where Hinata was squaring off against Sai. His eyes narrowed beneath his sunglasses.

Fuu's levity would be cut short as she noticed that the fight was still far from over. It had been a while since she had seen any action, only training exercises and Shino's company to stave her boredom. The opportunity finally presented itself, eager to prove her worth and pull her own weight in the village, Fuu had taken this opportunity to conduct herself properly, namely, to obey an officer authorized to give her orders.

And she would have it no other way when Shino was the one who told her what she needed to do. Fuu obeyed Shino's wordless command. She knew what they had to do.

An ink dragon suddenly made its appearance as it was about to tear them to pieces only to be stopped when a black blade descended from above and hitting it by the neck. Shikamaru then appeared, with neither sound nor visual cue, surprising both Shino and Fuu as Shikamaru then proceeded to slice the creature's head off after gripping the handle of the black blade as he rolled in midair, cutting through the neck swiftly. Shikamaru landed first and slid on the ground as he said, "Kage no Mai: Sen (Shadow Dance: Line)"

The ink dragon dissolved back into nothing.

Shikamaru turned his vision back to the assailant that had persisted. Sai was facing off against Hinata, with every movement Sai made, Hinata countered, her footwork was something to behold. Years of training with her teammates, her sensei's pointers and suggestions, and mixing philosophies with her family's style and her own thoughts into practice created a branch of the Jyuuken that suited her quick feet and her approach to battle. With every step created purpose and every purpose delivers Hinata to a spot that she could exploit. If the base principle of the Jyuuken was to directly debilitate like a spear pushing through a strong and indomitable defense, then this style of the Jyuuken was more like a knife in a surgeon's hands. Clean, sterile and precise cuts that slashed away at layers of the skin or rather, the defense one can manage to put up.

But something had bothered Shikamaru, this man was not letting up.

Sai could have backed down with his injuries. There was in no way shape or form, could ever keep up with the Hyuuga concerning taijutsu. So why is Sai, despite his two broken arms?

The answer that Shikamaru came too, was something he did not wish to dwell on.

With that, Shikamaru decided to restrain his opponent and lock him down with no avenues left for the man to escape and prevent whatever it is that Sai was planning.

Shikamaru clasped his hands together and began performing several handseals before he slammed his right palm on the muddy ground.

"Doton: Chikyu no Sento (Earth Release: Earth Spire)"

Five pillars of earth then rose from the ground around Hinata and Sai as they continued to square off, as each time blade met palm, Hinata parried the strike by applying chakra to her palms, redirecting the slashing attempts away from her as she stepped away with her rear foot and positioning herself to the openings that Sai had had gotten himself into. She would then strike with her other palm while Sai was forced to evade, expending more and more of his stamina just to get away from Hinata's range. Indeed, the Arayashiki seal was proving to be an effective tool to help its user keep up against opponents even when injured.

As Shikamaru thought of a scenario that Sai was planning, Chouji found himself more on the defensive as the two raptors in the air used both long-range and hit and run tactics against him. The black eagle would use a scroll it had hidden in its plumage to let loose an arsenal that could make Tenten's eyes gleam in excitement and preferred to use it that way while the white hawk dived in between bombardments to strike at Chouji's unguarded sides. Chouji was able to stave off the rain of kunai by deflecting them all away with his staff while using the edge of his staff to deflect the white hawk's attacks away from him. As the hawk would recover to the air to gather more momentum for another attack run, Chouji noticed that no more civilians were vulnerable and had been sent to a safe shelter, the large chuunin decided to stamp his staff on the ground, its tip digging through the road as it gave way from Chouji's impressive strength. The black eagle screeches in the air, once more unfurling the scroll it had grasped in its talons as multiple seal cores appeared. With a simultaneous popping of white smoke in each seal, it had unleashed a hail of kunai against its target. This time, they were all laden with paper bombs.

Chouji thought that this was the jutsu that had destroyed the research and development building two days ago. The one that had put Ino on death's door.

The Akimichi heir then gathered his hands to his chest, making a prayer stance on his right hand, with his left palm turned upwards underneath the right palm on the level of the Shomon, the Gate of Pain, just in front of his sternum. Strict, unrelenting training of the Monks in the Fire Temple rewarded them with the special chakra that was passed on with the ascetic practitioners of the art. Asuma showed this to him once, and although he would have liked to pass on that gift to all his students, both Ino and Shikamaru did not have the fortitude to endure rigorous training that involved patience as that of a saint.

Senzoku no sai (Wisdom Gift of the Sages)

According to Chiriku, this special chakra was much more of a mimicry of observing phenomena rather than something almost supernatural. Chiriku had lectured him about the origin of the chakra itself. Senzoku no Sai was a mimicry of what Chiriku had learned about the legends of humans able to surpass and ascend to a higher state of being. In reading old texts, the founder of the Fire Monks had come across a man who once lived in the mountains, proclaiming himself as a student of Ninshu, a student of the mythical sage of six paths. The founder observed the man's ascetic lifestyle, living off the land, training to punishing extremes and attaining enlightenment through the harshness of his daily routine. Chiriku described the founder's view of the man to be sublime. A man who lived on his lonesome in the mountains, taking great care of the forest as he became one with it.

The founder tried to mimic the man and in the process of years of training of ascetism as much as the sage had shown him, he had created something that was unlike that of the sage's but it somewhat had a resemblance.

The Founder of the Fire Monks had deemed it so, for his inspiration of the sage's way of life, for the new strength that he found, thus, it was named as a gift.

Now, with Chiriku thus claiming him worthy to learn of acceptance of the gift, Chouji remained standing still, chakra boils within himself, raging continuously within as it threatened to spill out. The image of an enlightened one seemingly began to take form behind him as the rain of steel and fire was about to fall down on Konoha's streets threatening one part of it to be swallowed by flames and destruction.

Chouji looked up and saw the kunai coming down on him fast. His being now empowered in this special state of chakra within, Chouji pointed an open palm forward and then up. The earth rumbled beneath his feet, chakra had gathered to the gathered open palm and proceeded to let out a powerful shockwave of force that went straight up, piercing through the heavens and scattering away clouds from up above, showing the sun shine widely above them. Behind him, the image of a buddha had its palm open and facing at front, mimicking Chouji's movements.

"Futsu Yashi no Kabe (Buddha Palm Wall)!"

The hail of Kunai scattered then swallowed up by the vicious vacuum pressure as it harmlessly swallowed by the sky and the explosive notes detonated in the air above Konoha in every which way, showing a spectacle far from the battlefield. The two winged raptors encircled above the air, avoiding the powerful blast of chakra and air that had sucked up the Kunai upwards into the skies. The chakra Chouji emitted was so dense that its pressure could even be felt above him.

The two birds of prey screeched as the black eagle had emptied its arsenal earlier. The black eagle threw away the scroll and dived towards its target, the white hawk doing the same as it went on the opposite direction. The black eagle flapped its wings a wild tempest of wind escapes with a mere shake and it readied its talons to strike at Chouji. The white eagle, doing the same, and closed its wings with its beak first, aiming to take on down Chouji as broke the sound barrier, surrounding itself with a cloak of wind that could destroy its opponents with its touch.

Chouji thus switched into a different stance, his hands now clasped into a prayer, the image of the buddha behind him mimicking his movements. There was a loud clap that could be heard and Chouji could feel his chakra spreading out acting like a dome before it imploded and collapsed in of itself as it suddenly went back to Chouji who then spread his arms wide, aiming for both the black eagle and the white hawk.

"Futsu Yashi no Kakoi (Buddha Palm Enclosure)!" It was here that the image of the buddha separated its praying hands, laying out its palms open and then suddenly closing it. Chakra ebbed and flowed, the two raptors were suddenly caught up in a massive surge of chakra that seemed to push them down with the pressure. The closure of the hands of the enlightened one did not maim or kill but rather imprison. As the first technique of this special chakra, it did not have the capability of doing so. That was reserved to the more powerful stances that the technique had.

Asuma had warned him that the special chakra he used was not meant for prolonged battles. The first technique was only meant to be used as punishment for followers that would stray from the path.

He would not have to endure much however as two shadows bounded off from the roof top. One had managed to get past chouji, cutting down the black eagle before three arrow bolts were lodged on to the raptor and multiple strings of ninja wire suddenly began wrapping around the white hawk. A small cat then held the wires with its teeth as it bounded to the roof with Tamaki suddenly appearing beside Chouji and swiping the raptor with her tekko-kagi.

Both creatures splattered as black ink, with the eagle merely dissolving into nothing.

"Where is he!? Where's that bastard!?" Kiba shouted in fury, his eyes turned to the sights of Chouji then back to the earthen makeshift prison that Shikamaru had formed as he saw Sai get hit by a Jyuuken palm strike courtesy of Hinata. Kiba growled in righteous fury and malicious anger.

Tamaki had walked over to Kiba and held him back, "Kiba, no."

"He struck down Ino and came to finish the job! He has to pay!"

Kiba struggled as Tamaki held him back. Chouji, however, looked horrified at what Kiba was implying. He and Shikamaru did manage to stop him at the very last second, but right before he struck Sai, Chouji noticed that for a brief second, he could see Sai breaking out of his hold and manage to plant the kunai down.

Chouji slowly turned to where Sai was fighting Hinata and his vision began to contort.

Ino... His childhood friend and teammate, the person who he once thought of as a meddling busy body was helplessly murdered. Despair escaped him as it was now Chouji who had suddenly sprinted towards the assassin, speed surprising most who have known Chouji, his eyes held a deep and bottomless despair. Chakra escaped him, butterfly wings manifested and the only thing left was to turn Sai into paste.

Chakra gathered to his right hand, blaring to life as he thought about the death of their teammate. Nothing seemed to matter anymore.

Kiba broke free and chased after Chouji, knife in hand. He was going to kill Sai first.

It was here that Sai had noticed that everyone was gunning for him, concentrating to one point. To where he had expected them to be. His entire being ached, right down to his very inner self, only pain existed. His mind now slowly surfacing again, Sai noted that the Arayashiki seal had slowly faded, his chakra depleting to near zero. As they all gathered around him, Sai's mask breaks and shatters to multiple pieces, revealing a hollow smile.

He had one.

A contingency plan was in place should he be captured by enemy forces. This was their last resort. He was going to die. But death, he freely accepted. If it meant the success of Lord Danzo, then he will take with him all of the dangerous elements whose fangs could reach the true Hokage.

As they all approached him with Shikamaru on one of the spires with his hands in a seal that stretched his shadows widely, Sai maintained his smile, despite the blood falling on his forehead and lips, his right eye soaked red with blood but he did not care.

Everything was for the good of Konoha.

It was here that Sai activated the seal in his mouth. Black substance began to pool beneath his feet, pain spiked to tenfold but Sai maintained that smile.

Despite the excruciating pain, he had finally found his one true purpose.

The black ooze then started to swirl around him and surrounded him, it started to shrink, letting the jutsu take effect as he was about to crush his own body with it. The pull became so strong that those near it couldn't even move. They were going to be swallowed whole.

"Minamoto no Banbutsu: Fuin kai (Gathering of All Creation: Unseal)!"

The effect was immediate the sealing jutsu that Sai had activated suddenly stopped as multiple sealing matrices appeared on the ground. Just a few meters across from them was Naruto, his wakizashi in hand pointing at Sai, as five circles of sealing lines rotated in opposite directions and stopping one by one.

As the final matrix stopped, Naruto turned the blade counter-clockwise as if he had just turned a key and the flow of sealing matrices around him stopped as did the jutsu that Sai was about to activate.

Sai looked up in surprise, his fictitious smile escaped him, a look of bewilderment. He looked around and saw the very first person to have humiliated him, show himself once more as the jailor of the Kyuubi looked down on him once more. This time, again, with pity.

Sai was on his knees as he felt unimaginable pain course through his veins. The shock of pain was far too much that he could tolerate. Even with his training, the surge of such a thing was comparably bigger than what he had experienced.

Sai looked up into the heavens and let the darkness claim him.

Once Sai had collapsed, Naruto gave a sigh of relief as the others regained their composures.

Hinata looked back to see Naruto putting the Wakizashi back to its Tsuba as she saw him being flanked by his cousin Karin and her team with one of them plastering a satisfied smirk on his face.

"Took your time, Naruto, what kept you?" Shikamaru asked and Naruto pointed with his thumb towards his back to Karin and her team.

"Had to make some arrangements. And we found one more of Danzo's lackeys hiding somewhere and had to take care of it."

It was rather mind-opening how he saw Karin, Suigetsu and Jugo worked. While Jugo acted like the team's muscle and frontline specialist, Karin was the team's sensor, medic and sweeper while Suigetsu acted as a the infiltrator, spy and assassin of the group. Watching Suigetsu work was like how Zabuza had worked. He struck silently and quick. With that new sword of his, he managed to take down a black ops specialist in one stroke.

Naruto approached his peers before looking down at Sai as he was knocked out. The assassin's breathing was shallow, ragged, and looked like his body was about to give up. Chouji and Kiba were about to deal the killing blow but were stopped when Naruto raised his hand quickly motioning them to stop.

"I understand what you both are going through, but I have to stop you here. This guy was as much as a victim as Ino is. Calm down."

This was such a jarring change of pace for those that knew Naruto. Normally, it was they who had to hold the blonde's temper back when they were younger. But Naruto was the calmest of them now. With Shikamaru slightly looking quite vexed at the blonde's stance.

"Naruto, this guy managed to kill Ino. Don't think you can stop us just because you think you can."

Naruto silently looked back at Kiba and Chouji, they were upset, they were hurt. To see someone get killed close to you in front of their eyes was not something anyone can forget. Naruto could empathize with that. Sasuke had been in such a pain as well. But in order for them not to succumb to the vengeful thirst for blood and then striking that hate at the wrong person, Naruto chose to stop them. Even if Sai was the one who had killed Ryuugamine.

"Ino's not dead yet. Sasuke and I worked out a plan."

To this, Chouji and Kiba looked on in surprise and Shikamaru gave a sigh.

"I had it mostly figured out, but you had Ino transfer to somewhere else within the hospital?"

Naruto nodded, "Were you thinking the same thing?"

Shikamaru answered with a nod and he cleared things out, "It was the natural thing to do. Assassins like him can and will attack to finish the job. The only time they do back off is when they know they've been outmatched. The mindset this guy had wasn't really hard to figure out. The question was when. The intelligence division probably knew that it would happen again. That's why they probably went with what you and Sasuke had in mind."

"We had her moved to some place much more intimate and secure than the ICU. From what I recall, it's in one of the operating rooms."

Naruto then picked up Sai and had him placed in a stretcher by one of the medics, he was immediately dragged away followed by a team of ANBU escorts.

"Was it necessary to keep him alive?" Shikamaru asked that question. Naruto knew what Shikamaru was infering to. Shikamaru had come to know that this assassin was a mere pawn. After all, why send someone so skilled if it was to kill a chuunin that worked for the intelligence department? Ino might be a rising star as an agent, but it did not mean that her status was worth looking into. It made more sense to go after two targets, one was Uchiha Sasuke, who was the last Uchiha in Konoha. If anyone was going to be struck in their generation, Sasuke was a prime target. The blow to Konoha due to the Uchiha clan's massacre sent the village reeling. The Uchiha clan was a force to be reckoned with, for sure. And to finally strike at the last known Uchiha with a fully functioning sharingan would mean one of Konoha's best weapons would be forever lost as it would lose its capacity to pass down the Sharingan to the next generation.

The other target would have to be Naruto. For obvious reasons, the blonde was their deterrent, the last resort option in case of a full on invasion. Losing Naruto would mean that Konoha has lost its option for a scorched earth policy. Their deterrent was mostly structured around fear, but that fear has long been used to prevent war stepping on Konoha's front door. It took Orochimaru manipulating Suna to send Gaara over for that to happen. Which meant that they were planning on using a jinchuuriki as a safety measure to face off with their jinchuuriki. Unfortunate for Orochimaru's plans, Naruto prevailed against Gaara at the time which would have signified a loss for their forces immensely.

"That guy was just a victim of Danzo's schemes. He made shinobi as mere tools to be used and thrown away. He's not someone we should turn our hatred to. He's a victim, just as much as we are."

Chouji merely clenched his fists, "I can't fully accept that."

Chouji then continued, "He endangered almost everyone. He antagonized you, Naruto. He almost killed Ino and the genin. He killed your workmate. How could you just accept the fact that he was also a victim? He may have been brainwashed, but he killed someone in our village!"

Naruto let Chouji talk, it was the first time he had heard his friend talk so much in scorn of someone else. Chouji never spoke ill of someone even if that someone came to insult him. He would seek retribution, but Chouji never badmouthed anyone. Not even the one who insulted Shikamaru.

Kiba added, his hands in his pockets,"Chouji's right, Naruto. Ryuugamine-sensei was a nice person. He helped us out a lot especially Sakura and Tenten. He never killed anyone, he didn't deserve to die."

Kiba, one of his friends and playmates when he was younger, the four of them usually caused trouble for Iruka. They were a boisterous group who caused havoc in class back then and it involved Shikamaru too. The four of them were not thick as thieves but they at least enjoyed each other's company. They knew each other in and out when they were children. But now on the cusp of adulthood, they also began maturing in their own ways.

It was here that Shino spoke, "You are right, Kiba. Ryuugamine-san didn't deserve to die, but are you willing to strike that hammer as well to someone who was manipulated and broken by an entity that we don't fully understand?"

"Shino..." Kiba turned to his teammate as Shino continued, "I have a cousin in their ranks. His name is Torune, an Aburame who was absorbed into Danzo's fold for my sake. But what if he was me, Kiba? Would you judge me the same?"

Kiba paused for a moment. Shino was considered to be placed in their ranks?

That was news.

"Shino, I... I don't know if I could. You're my teammate and friend. But if that were to happen... It's not so easy to place that judgement to you."

"Then why spare him?" Tamaki this time, was the one to ask. She was referring to Sai who was taken inside the hospital.

"He's not just the only one, the others too. They were brought under Danzo's wing? Why just him? Why not everyone else too?"

Shiakamaru sighed as he sat down on the stone pillar, "Because not everyone can be saved. We can't spare everybody who is trapped in this nightmare."

Hinata shook her head, "No, I don't think it's that."

Everyone turned to Hinata, she had a different conclusion compared to everyone else, "I think because Ino-san hesitated as well. She knows why she stopped. We know that normally, she wouldn't stop and she would strike at Sai with clear conviction, but that person now had a face and Ino-san recognized her. She must have known the program that Sai-san had to go through. It was why I had given him a last chance. Because I knew that Ino-san knew something about him."

"Familiarity will only get you so far." Tamaki responded.

"Perhaps, but I fear that we must discuss this at a later date. The die is cast, after all." Hinata replied as she walked over to Naruto.

"Naruto-kun, I know that I can't just let this go so easily. I know that you aren't letting this go as well. My sister was almost hurt, Konohamaru and his team were the same, Ryuugamine-san was killed and your team was almost killed as well. Out of all of us, you are affected more than us. But I have to place my trust in you. You gave someone like Sai-san a chance. I can't fathom what it is on your mind right now, but I wish to discuss more about what you are planning."

Naruto could tell that Hinata was slightly upset of what he decided to do. Hanabi was caught up in the explosion, and although alive and mostly unhurt, she couldn't shake the feeling of terror that had occurred during those minutes that she learned of what happened to where Hanabi was.

"I understand, Hinata. I want to say more, but we don't have the time for now. I'll make time for us after this. I swear to you."

Hinata, now relieved of her trust with Naruto could only nod and smile. She and Naruto did have the same ninja way, after all.

Just then, the alarm of the hospital's PA system blared, Naruto and the others looked towards the hospital door as numerous staff halted whatever they were doing as a voice had shouted, "Code blue, code blue, at the operating room, code blue, operating room!"

The staff then began to scramble as they saw nurses and doctors running towards the operating room


A few minutes before:

With the fighting raging outside, Sakura had made her way towards the operating room along with Sasuke and Tsunade. Naruto had informed them of recruiting more people into the fold as he told Sasuke to wait patiently for a chance to strike. Sasuke was about to protest but Naruto had told him that they were going to clear the path for him to sink his fangs at the man who had decided to drive the Uchiha to extinction. Before they could even begin to put on a large task force to strike down Danzo and his group, they had to plan it all out smoothly that nothing short of Sasuke delivering the final blow was going to be the end result.

So now, Sasuke waits, rather impatiently at that, as Naruto and Sakura had forced him to calm down. Sakura was inside the operating room with Tsunade for now, trying to figure out a way to wake Ino up.

Sasuke sat down to one of the benches at the OR's waiting room. The thoughts of his clansmen being cut down when the village had an option for a more peaceful solution could have taken place.

Was their village so corrupt too that a genocide became a justifiable solution?

Then just for that, the village needed to change. So why still hold on?

Because the winds of change started blowing, and that wind was his teammate, who he looked at as just as indignant of the cause of so much death. Sasuke didn't need to know what Naruto felt. His fury was plain to see. Circumstantial as it was, justified as it was, Naruto did not like what happened to his beloved village.

For now, Sasuke stewed in his seat, letting his thoughts simmer on what change had to be done in order to not let the tragedy of his clan to repeat itself again.

"Look for an answer..." He told himself.

Perhaps he will find an answer once he meets Itachi again.

But that will have to wait until he can grasp his new goal into his hands. He had never seen the shadowy figure of Danzo before but his comrades will help him carve out a path towards that goal.

The PA system's alarm blared, and he could hear the announcer tell him about the words 'code blue' and it was directed towards the operating room. Sasuke rose up from his seat and waited by the door. He couldn't enter, he wasn't authorized but he could feel Sakura's struggles inside.

Pain was a word that many could relate to and Sakura now was feeling that pain again. Caused by a man so hungry for power that he would strike down those that he deemed protect.

Again, Sasuke was reminded that he wasn't the only one who suffered from the actions of another.

Inside the operating room:

Once Sakura had entered, he had noticed three whole teams bustling in one room with Tsunade standing at the center of it all. She had recognized the intelligence division with Inoichi on one side, perhaps they were the ones who were detailed for Ino's protection. On another, a group of white coats different from those of the medical team was there, a new face was there discussing to that team about something she couldn't fully wrap her head around and finally, the medical team itself, composed of multiple disciplinary teams that were there to give Ino the best care that she can possibly have as Tsunade was the one leading that team herself.

It was here that the seemingly out of place team of white coats had turned to Tsunade as they called over Inoichi.

By this time, Sakura was started to scrub in, she washed her hands thoroughly cleaning herself up before donning the gown and placed herself at the monitoring team tasked with the anesthetic group to keep Ino alive.

"Is there a procedure that I have to know about?"

One of the medics nodded, "Yes, we are here to do a new type of surgery. Tsunade-sama herself will be the head surgeon with her assistants coming from different disciplines, particularly the neurosurgery department and the orthopedics department."

Sakura nodded as she slipped on a mask, "What are our goals here?"

One of the doctors, Sakura could identify, was the internist, "To awaken Ino-san. Katasuke-san, the new head of the research and development team, had gone over to explain to Tsunade-sama what Inoichi-san had with that scroll of his. Apparently, it's a device that is implanted on the spinal cord to jumpstart brain activity. Katasuke-san said that it was originally designed by Ryuugamine-sensei as a link to weapon. But Katasuke-san reconfigured the design to act as a gateway towards the brain and force a neural activity we didn't think was possible."

Just then, the monitoring system machine started blaring as it gave warning signals all throughout the room.

Sakura's eyes widened, she looked at the monitor, she was noting that her heart rate was going down.

"Bradycardia! What's the rate of her inotropes?" Sakura shouted and ran towards Ino as she raised one of Ino's eyelids with her gloved hands and shined a light on her eyes. Ino's pupils reacted, constricting to the bright light that was dropped on her eyes. But it was sluggish. She still had a chance.

"They're all maxed out! She's going into cardiac arrest!"

"Mech vent settings?"

"Maxed out as well! Any more and we might cause a pneumothorax!"

Sakura growled and looked at Tsunade who was going immediately to her and had the entire team ready.

"We don't have any more time! We're doing the procedure now! Everyone, to your stations!"

Tsunade then turned to Sakura, "Sakura, we're going to do the implantation now, we're going to turn her sideways, you're going to have to do a direct cardiac massage until we can do a jolt with this new device. Can you do it?"

Sakura looked determined, even with her mask, Tsunade noted Sakura's expression.

"I will, Tsunade-shishou!"

Tsunade smiled beneath her mask.

"That's my girl."

Sakura immediately got to work. She created a scalpel with her chakra and with her pointer finger, made an incision just beneath the sternum slicing across Ino's skin by about ten centimeters as she began to peel off layer by layer, once she saw the apex of Ino's heart, Sakura dived her right behind Ino's heart and began massaging it.

'I won't let you die, Ino...'

Sakura powered through her desperation, letting not the terror in her voice take hold of her own heart. Ino needed to be saved, she will not give up! Naruto and Sasuke taught her that. Her friend needed to be saved. All those times that she recalled feeling helpless, unable to do anything, useless and a failure, all of that discarded, thrown away like dust in the wind. No longer could she afford to fail someone, she was needed!

Tsunade then began her work, her hands, precise and unbelievably fast, the doctors and nurses watched as her hands were like magic, quick work and accurate. Inoichi and the others began sterilizing a small device that they would use to attach to Ino's spine. Before they knew it, Tsunade was already using a retractor for the spine and had enough space for the device to be implanted.

Katasuke then handed her the sterilized device to her hands and Tsunade carefully, but quickly planted the said device into Ino's spinal cord, right between her cervical and thoracic area.

It was here that Tsunade removed her latex gloves, her assistants began sterilizing her hand as she aimed one finger towards the small chip an arc of electricity escapes from her pointer finger and the lightning raced upward's Ino's spinal cord towards the brain.

Ino's brainwaves suddenly started to jolt and slowly began to show signs of a normal pattern while asleep.

Sakura who had gotten her hand away just in time just as Tsunade induced a shock towards the brain. As she retracted her arm, she looked at the monitoring device once more.

'P-waves are present, normal QRS complex, no elevation or depression of T-waves, the rhythm is okay too...'

Sakura examined the monitor for anything that could lead her astray. So far there was none.

"She's going to wake up."

The neurologist warned and the anesthesiologist proceeded to put her back into sleep as Sakura and Tsunade closed up their incision sights.

Sakura sighed in relief, as she stepped back and removed her mask and gloves a bit of Ino's blood had stained her face as the doctors, nurses and the scientists and the even the intelligence teams began clapping at their performance. Sakura may have only performed an emergency procedure, but her help had given Tsunade enough time to start the actual process. To those that were employed within the hospital, two operations at once was something that was time consuming especially with something as delicate as the neurologic system and to do it when the patient was in critical condition...

To the doctors, nurses and general staff of the hospital, what Tsunade and Sakura did was nothing short of a work of art.

Sakura did it.

"Start removing the tubes one by one, we can fix up whatever damage is there left and send Ino into a much less stressful ward." Tsunade commanded as she removed her gown and proceeded to scrub out.

Sakura followed soon and once she was out, she was greeted by her peers, all waiting outside of the operating room, looking anxious about what happened inside.

When the group finally saw Sakura outside, they finally saw Sakura smile confidently. And everyone cheered.

Pure whiteness, all she could see was white, nothing but white. There was no noise, no sound could be heard, only but her thoughts.

Ino turns around, nothing behind her, nothing in front of her. Nothing was present, only her.


Ino turned around to the source of the voice, but nothing appeared.


Ino turned around once more and yet nothing was there. Someone was calling out to her, yet nothing she could see that would connect her to it.

Frustration settling in, Ino grew annoyed as the voice once more called out again. She looked around to where that voice came from and found her pure white void slowly fading away and she found herself in her room with books strewn across the floor and table, her equipment and sword by the side of the door and a window sill that had let the sun shine in. No person was there to make a face to connect with the voice still.

She looked at her window, she saw her teammates waving at her.

"How long are you going to make us wait?" Shikamaru asked, arms crossed with a grin on his face.

"Shikamaru... Chouji?"

"Yeah, Ino? How long are you going to stand there? You've got your stuff to do but you really should pick up the pace, you know!" Chouji shouted. Their voices were familiar, were they the ones calling out to her?

"Ino! Get your butt into gear! You've got stuff to do!"

Ino turned her head to see Sakura also waving at her with a smile on her face.

"Yo, Ino, stop moping and get down here! You think life is going to be on a standstill while we wait for you?"

This time, Kiba and Akamaru showed up and pretty soon, her friends began appearing one by one.

"Yeah, Ino, it's not like life will pass you by, get cracking and do something!" Tenten added.

Now Ino was getting annoyed.

"Ah, what the hell do you want me to do, you bunch of slave drivers! I don't even know what you're trying to tell me!" Ino shouted clearly as she opened her window and looked at everyone around her smiling at her and waving at her.

"It's obvious, isn't it, Ino?" Naruto asked her rhetorically with a grin on his face, he told her, "This is something only you can do. You know it already, don't you? So get down from there, we'll push you as you need to."

"We're with you, all the way!" Hinata added as she walked beside Naruto.

"You can do it, Ino!" Chouji shouted and Shikamaru smiled at her all the same, "Life never passes you by, Ino, we know what you want, so why hesitate?"

Ino stopped for a moment, she looked back into her room, or more specifically, to her desk, she found a picture book.

She blinked a few times and suddenly, she found herself staring up at a ceiling and looking around, there, by her bed were her friends, in various positions as they waited for her to wake up.

"Glad to see you awake, Ino. It looks like the operation was a success." Sakura smiled and Ino saw her friend at her bedside, her friends were all smiling at her as she looked around. The room was quite big, maybe a deluxe sweet that was preserved for VIPs in hospitals. She then saw her father and mother hugging her as Inoichi laid down the scroll she had collected earlier beside her.

"Why is everyone here?" Ino finally asked, and it was Naruto who answered her.

"Because we are going to settle a score with an old coot."

To be continued...

Original Jutsu corner:

Kage Tsume no Jutsu 影爪の術 (Shadow Claw Technique) C-rank- A jutsu made as an extension of the Kage Kubi Shibari no Jutsu or shadow strangulation. This jutsu was made to supplement Shikamaru's movement and can be used for attack as well. Though not as offensive as many other jutsu, its strength relies more in its versatility.

Konchu no Gitai: Kamakiri 昆虫の擬態: 蟷螂 (Insect Mimicry: Mantis) C-rank- A taijutsu technique augmented with chakra. Shino took inspiration from Kiba's fighting style and made a technique on his own. This jutsu strengthens the chopping motion of the hand, much like how a mantis uses its forearms as its main weapons. If Shino hits his opponent with this, they are immediately debilitated as it shatters bones upon impact. As for inspiration from other media, this was inspired by the countless early era toku shows in Japan, particularly, Showa era Kamen Riders Ichigo and Nigo.

Konchu no Gitai: Denkimushi 昆虫の擬態:電気虫 (Insect Mimicry: Electric Insect)B-rank- Another jutsu that Shino too inspiration from his teammate, this time, with Hinata. Kikaichu swarms surround Shino and the bugs generate static charges by grinding their legs together. The jutsu is only made to repel and push opponents away rather than outright electrocution. This jutsu's inspiration comes from a real world caterpillar stage of a moth genus in Japan said to have a sting as vicious as an electric shock. This creature, from what I recall, also serves as an inspiration for charjabug, the bug-electric type pokemon though its evolution line is more like a beetle than a moth.

Konchu no Gitai: Mukade 昆虫の擬態:百足 (Insect Mimicry: Centipede) B-rank- A Taijutsu maneuver that is performed with chakra augmentation. Shino twists his body while on a handstand and kicks his enemy, spinning and rising upwards much like how a centipede would rise to a tree. The power behind these chakra augmented kick rises and adds to the blows for every strike.

Futsu Yashi no kabe 仏椰子の壁 (Buddha Palm Wall) B-rank- Obtaining the wisdom gift of the sages, this jutsu manifests as that of a buddha like figure behind the user's back, the chakra saturates within the user and then forms an impenetrable wall at the front of the user's open palm and pushes it out that can be used offensively. The inspirations of this jutsu come from several things, the buddha palm technique from Kung Fu Hustle and also some mix and matches from Naruto's Raigo Senjutsatsu and HunterxHunter's Netero nen ability Hyakushiki Kanon (100 type Guanyin Boddhisatva)

Futsu Yashi no Kakoi 仏椰子の囲い (Buddha Palm Enclosure) C-Rank- This is the first technique learned after obtaining the Senzoku no Sai or the wisdom gift of the sages. The image of the buddha manifests behind the user with palms wide open and traps the opponent with such dense chakra but it does not crush them completely. Thus, this jutsu is more like a tool for punishment rather than a jutsu used for killing. The inspirations for this technique comes from the old novel Journey to the West where Sun Wukong was tricked by the buddha to land on his palm and trapped him there.

Good day, people, stay safe and stay happy. I would like to apologize, the hype continued next chapter now that I needed to finish some of the stuff here before we turn to Danzo.